YOU will be old one day, if not already an elder. I am writing a book on what one considers the golden years of life, or the sunset years. It could be a life of contentment, enjoyed with children and grandchildren, or one spent in ‘the outhouse on the first floor’ where well-off children keep their parents in grand isolation to die.
It depends on your perspective.
If you are young I hope it will prepare you for the inevitable future. A future you have not seen yet. If you are already in
that period, you have passed through youth, a stage that sets your thinking pattern, and lifestyle. The old, or to use
a less harsh term, the elderly, have gone through youth, and need to reorient themselves to face the new situation with equanimity when they grow old.
The youth, having never been old, are blissfully unaware of the closing chapters of the book of life. They may want to prepare themselves for it. They should.
This book may help.
Negativity in outlook may make you think of old age life as living in an outhouse, mental or physical. The son – usually in India it is the son – and grandchildren live on the second floor. The ground floor left to servants, kitchen, dining table and a drawing room. Most well-off children give a first floor room to old parents. No one talks to them.
In fact that was the intended title of the this book first ‘Outhouse on The First Floor’, with a catchy blurb ‘Coming of (old)Age in India’. The blurb was borrowed from Dr. Margaret Mead’s
book — ‘Coming of Age in Samoa’,
considered a milestone in the field of Anthropology.
Then I found this was a negative
approach and that few had heard of Dr. Mead or the anthropological concept of ‘coming of age rituals’.
Old age has some common problems I mention in the book. An American code of ethics for journalists prohibits the word old. It says it is judgmental. A 16 year teenager may be ‘old’ for a little child. A 60-year-old may be ‘young’ for one who is 90. It wants ‘elders’ to replace it.
One of the most common problems is negativity of outlook, perhaps due to the thoughts of the coming end..This should be replaced by a positive attitude. Negativity makes the elders’
existence miserable. Positivity should be encouraged.
The desire to reorient to a positive attitude will make you think of old age as the golden years, not a prelude to sunset. The sunset is inevitable. As sure as the sun rises every morning, it would set The ultimate reality is death. Worrying about it will not stop or postpone the end
even delay by a minute what is destined.
One of the first lessons taught in disaster management is“Be Prepared”. It is also the Scout movement motto. So one must know all aspects of the Golden Years –the emotional, psychological, medical problems,
the economic options, precautions and the legal steps needed.
One of the most common regrets
of the aged is that they had not done enough for their own parents in their final years. This may or may not be true.
What is important is that they think of it when it is too late. Edward Fitzgerald had said in his great translation of Rubayyat by Omar Khayyam: “The Moving Finger writes and having writ, moves on. Not all thy piety nor tears can lure it back to cancel half a line.”
No amount of regret can put the clock back. When you realize that your children may treat you just as you treated yout own parents, it may be too late.
It reminds me of a story I was sent several times, about an old woman in an old-age home. Her son rarely visited her. Once the home manager phones to tell him that she was serious. She may not survive. She wanted to ask for something. He goes to the old- age home,wondering what the mother who asked for nothing all these years wanted.
She tells him,“I never asked for anything so far. But after I die, I want you to get some fans installed here. I know you have an AC room. I think you will face great discomfort without at least a fan when your children send you here in your old age”. The son then realizes the love of a mother. She endured hot Indian summers without a fan for years. But she was concerned more about his own discomfort when old.
Then there is the story of a rich man who kept his aged old father in a cattle shed. He fed him a little food daily in a ceramic plate. The frail old man one day dropped the plate. Ii broke.
When the son was scolding him for being careless, his schoolboy grandson joined him. “You are so careless. I was hoping to use the same plate for my dad when I send him here in his old age.” It was an eye-opener for the boy’s father.
You should ensure that your golden years are not about sunset but happy days in all aspects – social, medical, economic and legal. All well planned.
That is what this book intends to deal with. The latest, Arun Shourie’s great book ‘Preparing For Death’ (Pinguin) is an excellent treatise examining the religious, philosophical and
spiritual aspects of the issue. No claim to such scholarly pursuit is made here
I seek advice from all, as I did in the case of my two earlier books. Before I finalize it for a publisher, whose editors will again make changes I want to get inputs from all. It is called crowd sourcing.
The book will be divided into several parts. They may be called sections, books, parts or just one, two, three and so on. These will be — MIND dealing with psychology,attitudes, relationships,old-age
homes etc. Health or BODY is about medicines, Is it good to be vegetarian or vegan? It will also deal with infections, personal hygiene. Is Longevity a curse or a boon?How to avoid stress. How to age with grace. Alvida Na Kahna (don’t say goodbye) will be on the mystery of death, happy ending. SOUL will be on religion, spiritualism or spiritual needs, and teachings of savants on death. MONEY will deal with financial planning, investing for old age, Mutual Funds,FDs and Senior Citizen Accounts. Should you have monthly income plans? What are Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, zero-age policies for grandchildren, ponzy
schemes and perils of greed for easy money. There will be a section on LAW – how to avoid property disputes by writing a Will. What does dying intestate
mean? It will deal with legal protection of the aged – the new Act on maintenance. The book will list facilities for senior citizens.
Any suggestions …pl let me know on
firstname.lastname@example.org (No H in the name).
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